By Oseloka Zikora
At the onset of comedy on television in Nigeria, there was a certain Lomaji Ugoji who played the Court Clerk in NTA Enugu prime comedy “Icheoku”! Set in the historic colonial period in Igbo land chronicling how Warrant Clerks administered native lands, Lomaji was called “Kotuma” in the series. His role was to act the interpreter for both the natives who didn’t speak or understand English and the “Oyibo” appointed Magistrates otherwise called “Nwa DC”.
The irony was that “Kotuma” who the “Nwa DC” depended on to communicate to the natives and in turn get to understand what they were saying, was himself challenged in the use of the language. It was hilarious then seeing Kotuma doing his business. Either that Nwa DC didn’t know that he was interpreting utter nonsense, or he pretended not to notice that everyone was conned by the Court Clerk.
A particular occasion that got me reeling on the ground was his interpretation of a Bible story told by Nwa DC. The white man said: “And Jesus told the multitude …” Kotuma interpreted that to mean “Jesus weree gwa ndi mmuo na etili ya uduu”, literally “Jesus told the spirits beating the drums for him…” Lomaji employed a bad use of onomatopoeia in associating the sound of multitude which he didn’t understand its proper meaning, to arrive at that interpretation. If you don’t speak Igbo, you will probably not understand his drift.
However, his interpretation lay in Igbo native cosmology as also reflected in the Bible, that in the issues of life, there are spirits that control the affairs of the physical. In this deep understanding of forces and creation lies another equation, that the greater the spirit, the greater the control. The ultimate decider however and controller of affairs in creation both of physical and the spiritual is God who Himself is Spirit. That’s why in matters that sometimes defy understanding, an Igbo person would tell you “ Aka Chukwu diyaa”, meaning the hand of God is in it. In fact some are named “Akachukwu”.
It was March 24th 2022 when Nigerians woke to the news that Peter Obi, former Governor of Anambra State and one of the leading PDP presidential aspirants, had resigned from the party. He was to join a relatively struggling Labour Party and secure the presidential ticket of the party a few days later. He attributed his reason for leaving PDP on the growing inclination of the party toward issues and intrigues which stood at variance with his person and principles. According to him, the innocence and dynamics of the Labour Party resonated with his ideals of politics and pursuit of power.
For many, the movement to the relatively unknown Labour Party was like sounding a death knell on Obi’s political ambition. However, little did anyone know that an unknown hand was orchestrating a moving of aces in a masterful chess game that play out in politics especially in Nigeria. So the ObiDient movement was born and it soon spread like wildfire across the country driven by a youthful fervour, an inferno first stoked by the angst of the recent End SARS protest in the country.
Some subsequent quick occurrences cemented the turning of the tide. PDP gave its presidential ticket to Atiku Abubakar, a 75 year career politician who served as Obasanjo’s Vice at the outset of the 4th republic. That would be Atiku’s 4th try at contesting the presidency. By so doing though, the party broke its age long power rotation convention; thus creating a huge schism that saw co-contestant, Rivers State Gov. Wike breaking away with four other colleague Governors on the principle that the party ought to field a candidate from the South. They argue that ceding power to the South would create a situation which could see the Northern part of the country stay in the highest office in the land for a possible straight 16 year period. The breakaway group also known as the G-5 Governors literally became a thorn in the flesh for the PDP flag bearer’s latest aspiration to occupy the highest office in the land.
Another driver to the wildfire Obi’s candidature has become was the recourse of the ruling party, APC to equally choose another old soldier, Bola Ahmed Tinubu as its flag bearer effectively shutting out a much younger and charismatic current Vice President Yemi Osinbanjo who had developed significant engagement with youths on social media, and equally presented a more credible image than the transactional politician associated with the chosen candidates of both leading parties.
There was no doubt that majority of Nigerians were tired of the old order and sought a clean break to fresh air which Obi was seen to represent. The former Anambra Governor was lots younger than the two and had some measurable indices at a high level of state governance with which the people can evaluate and arrive at reasonable alternative choice. His record in office was marked with verifiable strides of development, capacity, competence, and integrity. The frugal attitude and simplicity of life associated with him over decades coupled with acts of empathy endeared him to the masses seeking a leader who would be accountable to God and man. Obi’s choice of the youthful Zaria born Yusuf Datti-Ahmed, owner of Baze University, Abuja, and Baba Ahmed University, Kano as running mate became an icing of the cake. The ObiDient followers also saw in the one-time Senator, a clean break from the past, a young man who has shown tenacity of purpose. Datti was seen as one who utilized entrepreneurial skills to positively impact society; not that one need to be a government leech to make it in life.
The astronomical impact that the ObiDatti movement otherwise called the ObiDients has shown in the political landscape across the country is nothing but phenomenal and supernatural. The crowds drawn wherever the man went was organic, and not the usual rented crowd accustomed with such political gatherings. The mantra was “We no dey give shishi”, yet the mass movement kept surging. Never in the history of the country has any politician gathered to himself such a following in innumerable numbers as seen in the ObiDient movement. Consisting mainly of a youthful population but which steadily grew to cut across all age strata, the followers see themselves as that they are all contesting for the office of the President in the face of Obi and Datti-Ahmed.
The story as told about the biblical King Saul was that after God anointed him as King and before his coronation, many valiant young men followed him, those whose heart God had touched. It may well be that a divine anointing is flowing on the political streets of Nigeria, and many hearts have been touched to look in one direction.
So as the multitude throng around the 61 year old Anambra born Peter Gregory Onwubuasi Obi, all I hear is Lomaji’s “And he told the spirits beating drums for him …” No doubt, there is a Big Spirit beating this drum. By February 25th 2023, the reverberation would be heard with more clarity and understanding.
Zikora, a public affairs analyst, writes from Abuja